The Baffling Unpopularity of Souled Out
DJ TSC1 (Sean Harris) hosts Souled Out every Thursday at Memphis Café (2920 Bristol St., Costa Mesa; there, he also co-hosts the Brit-rock/pop-oriented Definitely Maybe on Wednesdays). With impeccable taste, Harris spins funk, soul, jazz, soul jazz, disco and hip-hop. Every time I hit his night, I learn something new and get turned on to more life-enhancing music. (For example, did you know there exists a version of Gil Scott-Heron's soul-jazz classic "The Bottle" done by some white dudes called Brother to Brother that's actually superior to the original? Neither did I—till Harris schooled me.)
On any given Thursday, you can hear deep cuts by artists such as Curtis Mayfield, George McRae, Lyn Collins, Jimmy Castor Bunch, James Brown and Donald Byrd, as well as those by lesser-knowns such as Sylvia Striplin, the Vibrettes, the Sylvers, Billy Brooks and Charles Earland. And that's just scraping the surface. Depth, quality and breadth of music distinguish Souled Out as a consistently exceptional night of edutainment.
Sadly, attendance for Souled Out has been dismal in recent months. True, Harris spins some obscure tracks, but by no means are his choices difficult listening; on the contrary, they should be packing the dance floor and bringing perma-grins to every mug in the house. Problem is, there aren't many mugs in this house, grinning orgrim. Hearing great, rare grooves in a comfortable environment chosen by a master selector? Seems like a no-brainer for success. But apparently, there's a minuscule market in Orange County for such rich fare. I don't get it, nor does Harris. Maybe people really do want to hear the same four dozen '80s hits or characterless house music whenever they go clubbing.
You Are So Beautiful?
Outside Memphis Café in Costa Mesa, a group of us are chatting, while inside, Ubiquity hip-hop artist Ohmega Watts is DJing a set of strong if overly familiar cuts for Abstract Workshop's Versatile night. We see a figure walking toward us. To me, it looks like a man in drag. This person is wearing a tiara and a gaudily "classy" prom dress with a sash bearing some scrawl I can't read. When the queen reaches us, it's clear this is a woman, perhaps in her late 40s. She holds a piece of paper with lyrics to "You Are So Beautiful (To Me)," the schmaltzy, oft-covered ballad with which Joe Cocker and Kenny Rogers had hits. Tiara or no, this woman is not beautiful, not (to me), anyway.
With a tragic desperation, she asks each of us to sing this song to her. We all kindly reject her offer. A Ubiquity employee nicely advises her to contact his agent, adding that his performance price is exorbitant. I explain to her that if I sang this song, she'd regret ever being born. She takes my word for it. A local DJ asks her if he can take her photo with him in it. She agrees. Other folks are shooting photos and/or video of this pathetic scene, too. When the pathos becomes unbearable, I exit, with the song still unsung.
Get Ready to Sprawl!
Jeff Kile of Costa Mesa band Sprawl recently fired off an angry missive to this columnist, taking umbrage over the column's name. At first I thought Kile seriously objected to Sprawl of Sound, as if his group had a copyright on the word "sprawl." Read his message below and see for yourself.
"[W]hile I very much appreciate coverage of No Age [see Sprawl of Sound, Aug. 2], I am somewhat upset with the fact that you managed to rip off our band name for use in your column without even bothering to inform us! We are the original Sprawl from Costa Mesa! But I guess any press is good press, and hey, Sprawl for All (that's our MySpace: www.myspace.com/sprawlforall)!"
I responded, "If this is just your cute way of trying to get me to recognize your existence, then congratulations: It worked. But if you're genuinely pissed at my column name, then you probably need to loosen up a bit. I would like to think you're joking, but you never know. . . ."
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Turns out Kile was joking. And now his band's in Sprawl of Sound. Touché.
And Sprawl sound pretty good: scrappy, hyper, lo-fi rock that would fit nicely on a bill with, yes, No Age. Fender Rhodes always sounds rad to these ears, and the double bass lends a warm, fat bottom to the overall treble-osity of Sprawl's spasmodic attack. So visit their MySpace page, then check out these ballsy dudes Friday (tentatively) at the Clinic (2208 S. Lyon St., Santa Ana; www.theclinicvenue.com) and at UC Irvine on Aug. 31.
See, bands? All it takes is a little gumption and ingenuity to end up in Sprawl of Sound's hallowed column inches. Oh, interesting music helps, too.